Liszt, Franz

1811-1886

Born in Raiding, a small town of Hungary, near Odenburg, Oct. 22, 1811. His father, Adam L., was in the employ of Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, and was himself a capable musician, performing on the piano and violin, and he early directed the study of his precocious son. Often would he say to him: "My son, you are destined to realize the glorious ideal that has shone in vain before my youth. I shall renew my youth in you even after I am laid in the grave." The father resolved to devote his life to developing the boy's talent. When nine years of age, Franz made his first public appearance in Odenburg. His performance was so remarkable that Prince Esterhazy, who was in the audience, agreed to defray the boy's expenses for six years of instruction. Accordingly, his father took him to Vienna, where he remained for a year and a half, studying piano under Czerny and composition under Salieri and Randhartinger, who introduced him to Franz Schubert. At a concert of his own while in Vienna he was enthusiastically applanded, but it was ever after memorable to him for the fact that Beethoven, at its close, kissed him on the forehead. Thinking to crown his education by instruction at the Paris Conservatory, the family repaired to that city. En route they  gave concerts at the large German towns, the boy being everywhere received with  wonder and applause. But Cherubini, director of the Conservatory, refused admittance to Liszt on account of his foreign birth, this being the rule of the institution. At first this seemed to be a great calamity, but in reality Liszt was quite as well prepared by his father. He was praised and petted by Parisians, and was in danger of being spoiled when his father took him to England, where his fame had preceded him. The bills which advertised his concerts resembled the circus posters of our day. He was called the " Little Liszt," and would be carried on the stage in token of his youth. As he grew older and the artist awakened in him, he disliked this treatment. He would say: " I would rather be anything in the world than a musician in the pay of great folk, patronized and paid by them like a conjurer or a clever dog." At this time he composed a one-act operetta, Don Sancho, which was received at the Academic Royale, and the principal role was taken by the famous tenor, Nourrit. While upon this work he saw his defects, and began to study composition seriously under Reicha and Paer. The next year he made a provincial tour. In 1827 he was again in London, and upon the return journey his father became ill and died at Boulogne. His father's death was a great loss, but he bore up bravely, and, as his mother had sacrificed so much for him, he turned over to her the earnings of his virtuoso career and lived himself by teaching. As his general education had been somewhat neglected, he now set to work studying philosophy and theology especially. Paris was just the place to develop the resources of his nature. Here he came to know Victor Hugo, Lamartine, George Sand, Berlioz, Heinrich Heine, Balzac, Dumas and others. Liszt was exceedingly sensitive and possessed a wonderful imagination. His affection for Mile, de St. Cricq and the subsequent disappointment upon her enforced marriage to another so affected his mind that he became ill. His thoughts turned to religion and he threatened to give up his art. Fortunately, however, he heard Paganini, and was so inspired by his playing that he resolved to become the Paganini of the piano, and took up his music again with renewed ardor. After two years spent at Geneva in composition he returned to Paris, to prevent the brilliant Thalberg from usurping his own place as pianist. In 1839 he started upon a tour of Europe, which was one long triumph. In Leipsic he made the acquaintance of Mendelssohn and Schumann. The latter says of him: "I never found any artist except Paganini to possess in so high a degree this power of subjecting, elevating and leading the public. It is an instantaneous variety of wildness, tenderness, boldness and airy grace." In Hamburg he aroused the critics from their usual coldness to the height of enthusiasm. He made his fourth visit to England in 1840, where he gave two concerts of his own, an unprecedented feat of that time, and he is supposed to have invented the term Recital for the purpose. Moscheles became his friend, and tells of him: " His technique beats everything; he does what he likes and does it exceedingly well, and his hands, thrown high into the air, descend seldom, astonishingly seldom, on the wrong key." Two incidents of this period of his life go to show the manner of man he was: The bronze statue of Beethoven, which  was to be erected at Bonn, lacked funds for its completion, and Liszt not only promised to make up the deficit but actually cancelled his engagements to assist in the arrangements. It was dedicated in August, 1854, and among those present at the ceremony were King William of Prussia and Queen Victoria of England. Liszt's performance of Beethoven's concerto in E flat was the crowning success of all. At another time, while he was in Italy, word came to him of the suffering of his countrymen, caused by the inundation of the Danube. He left immediately for Pesth, and gave concert after concert, devoting the proceeds to alleviate the suffering.